I love the Criterium du Dauphine.

Amongst a peloton full of hope it has all the anticipation of going on a first date. If things go well maybe we’ll meet up again in July.

History tells us, ride well at the Dauphine and you’ll be a factor at the Tour.

Geraint Thomas won last year, then the Tour. Three of Froome’s Tour victories have been preceded by success at the Dauphine. Wiggins also won the June tune up prior to the Tour. Cadel Evans was second, in 2011, before becoming Australia’s first Tour winner.

For me it’s also the final preparation for the Tour.

I’ll know which riders I need to do more homework on and who I’ll be spending a lot of time talking about come Tour time. And as I haven’t commentated since Liege-Bastogne-Liege, in April, it also helps me get some pre-Tour nerves out.

This year’s course ticks most of the cycling entertainment boxes.

Stages one and two are medium mountains stages. Who controls it on day one? I don’t know. That should make for an aggressive start to the race.

Stage three is the only chance for the sprinters.

Stage four is a 26km individual time trial, with a solid climb in the middle. This is a big test. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Richie Porte compares to Froome on this one.

Stage five (201km) and six (228km) are potentially a little boring. Good endurance builders for Tour preparation.

Stages seven and eight look fantastic. Stage seven has an elevation gain of 4150 metres in just 133km and a mountain top finish. I can’t wait. Stage eight, the final day, has seven categorised climbs in just 113km.

Chris Froome is among the starters but not Geraint Thomas. He’ll ride the Tour de Suisse instead, as will Nairo Quintana. Porte, like Froome, is 34, the same age Cadel was when he won. I feel like this is his last chance at a podium finish in Paris. The Dauphine can raise or dash those hopes. All French eyes will be on Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe.

With Tour preparation in full swing I hope your training for L’Étape is also underway.

 


 

Being one of the most recognisable voices of cycling, Matthew Keenan regularly forms part of the international commentary team at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, broadcast around the world from Europe, USA, Africa, New Zealand and on SBS in Australia.